Police abuse rife in Kenya


Nearly half the Kenyans surveyed by government’s police watchdog said they suffered police abuse of power, according to a survey, underscoring the scale of the task the body faces holding officers to account.

Kenyans have long complained of police brutality but face an uphill battle for justice.

The study by the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA), formed in 2011, found the public is afraid to report police abuse, fearing victimisation and believing no action will be taken.

The IPOA said the incidence of police abuse reported in their survey of 6 000 households marked a “significant increase” compared with its last survey in 2013.

More than 46% of respondents said they were victims of at least one form of police abuse of power, up from 30% in the survey six years ago.

Police abuse of power was defined as “inappropriate conduct…or illegal actions taken by police officers” in their official duties.

Of those who said they experienced police brutality, less than 10% reported to the IPOA.

Another 70% reported abuse at their local police station but more than half said reporting did not yield results.

A 2018 Reuters investigation found IPOA was struggling to fulfil its mandate. At that time, it secured convictions of police officers for committing crimes in two cases, despite more than 9 200 complaints.

In a case that drew media attention, the 28-year-old son of a British aristocrat was found dead in his cell in 2012 after he was detained. His family criticised the IPOA’s investigation of the death. A years-long inquest found in 2018 there were attempts to cover up what had happened and a trial started in January 2019.

The IPOA study concluded it was not possible to compare public confidence in the watchdog between the surveys because different survey methods were used.

It said survey respondents “appeared impressed by some instances in which cases of police misconduct were handled by the IPOA and justice served”, referring to one case where a court sentenced a police officer to jail for abuse.